The term “home game” was completely redefined last Saturday, when many UofM students tuned into ESPN primetime for the Tigers’ season opener at the Liberty Bowl. Amid a global pandemic, the UofM made a decision to hold a random lottery selection for student tickets.
The university allowed 4,500 tickets to be sold for the game, leaving only 300 tickets for students. The end result found the stadium only 7 percent full. Fans who were not lucky enough to be part of that 300 watched the game from the comfort of their own homes. Jason Doland, a sophomore engineering student, was one of the fans who tuned into the game.
“It was definitely weird to watch a home game, let alone the season opener, from home,” he said. “I was still excited for the game, but the atmosphere was a lot different. Instead of having thousands of other fans cheering, it was just me and some of my friends.”
Although Doland enjoyed the game, he said he missed the simple things about game days in the 901.
“It was very different to not get ready with friends,” he said. “There was no carpooling down Central Avenue and no walk down Tiger Lane into the stadium. I think what I miss most of all is hearing the conversations of all of the fans — it just adds to the atmosphere of the game.”
Even though tickets were few and far between, the game went off with all 4,500 seats being filled. Vincent Chenier, a freshman at the UofM, was one of the 300 students in the stadium for kickoff.
“Although there were not that many people, it was still pretty exciting and people were cheering hard,” he said. “It was a really fun atmosphere still, and I think we all had a good time. [But] it was not very loud, even though I have never been to a game with attendance like a full Liberty Bowl, I know that it could not compare to 60,000 fans yelling.”
Along with limiting the number of spectators, seats were marked with where fans could and could not sit. These followed the social distancing practices that are being used in most public places now.
“Everyone was pretty good about following the COVID-19 rules inside the stadium,” Chenier said. “Everyone was wearing their masks and staying six feet apart from people.”
A lack of concessions were also present at the game, according to Chenier.
“There were not people walking around and selling things, but the concessions under the stands were open,” he said. “Not all of them were, but there were some that were still open, along with the bathrooms.”
With a fanbase like the one that the University of Memphis has, every home game is likely to be sold out. Students are able to enter the ticket lottery the week of a home game through their MyMemphis accounts, though the odds of being chosen are slim. Only about 1.2 percent of the student population would be selected, assuming all 25,000 apply for tickets.
“It is a little daunting to think that the odds are that low to win,” Doland said. “They will not stop me from trying, because I love watching the games from the stadium, but I wish there were more seats available. However, I know that, especially during this pandemic, that would be impossible. Regardless of watching the games on TV or in person, I am just happy that Tiger football is back.”